For real life to begin 

My friend sent me a text saying she can’t wait for her real life to begin- to graduate college and fly the nest, get married, pay bills, trip on her babies’ toys and kiss them good night. This is just the in-between phase.

“I can’t wait for my real life to begin.”

I reread her text message and surveyed my room- dog toys instead of Legos litter my floor. At the foot of my bed is a pile of laundry that I folded and stuck in the basket to put away later, and later never came. Books occupy every shelf and free space, and my walls are covered in pictures of Paris and Johnny Cash- the stories that drive me and places I’d like to be.

I am one year and two months out of college and almost 25, and this is real life.
This is real life, and it isn’t at all what I planned or expected. I don’t think it’s what she expects either, but I don’t want to tell her that.

This is real life when I fall asleep cuddling my dog and an open book and wake to her feet in my face. And it isn’t what I expected, but I get to fall in love with strangers in coffee shops. I get to wait on the boy who may never come and wonder about the ones who didn’t call. I spend my weeks planning Fridays and road trips, and for all the friends I’ve met I’m content to hideaway and read a book in bed. My future is wide open-unplanned, the present is mine, and I fall asleep pinching myself, wondering if this is real.

But this IS real.
This is real life when I come home to three roommates and sprawl out like a snowflake in the center of my bed. I love my friends’ babies because I’m not ready for my own, and I don’t know which turn will take me there to my own family. But I’m not waiting on them to be my beginning.

I walked up the porch steps one night after meeting a boy.

“We’ll talk soon,” he promised. I shut the door behind him and thought, “This is it. I can’t wait for my real life to begin.”
But I never saw his name on my phone again.

And I realized then that I can’t plug a person in to my life, flip a switch, and call it destiny. He wasn’t my catalyst.

My real life is scary and messy and uncertain and doesn’t feel at all like I imagined it as a kid. But it’s mine, and I’m writing this while cradling a sleeve of saltines and my dog on my pillow just because I can. This is it. And I’m so glad I didn’t wait for it to begin.

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